Arroyo won’t sign CARP resolution–solon

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 15:52:00 01/02/2009

Filed Under: Legislation, Laws, Congress, Agrarian Reform

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will not sign Joint Resolution 19 extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program for six months and will just let it lapse into law, Speaker Prospero Nograles has said.

Nograles said this was the President’s inclination as the joint resolution has been in Malacañang for almost three weeks after the House of Representatives transmitted the measure there.

“I am told that this will just lapse into law,” Nograles said in a text message Friday when asked if the President signed the resolution.

Nograles said the President “wanted to insert the provision to allow agricultural lands to be used as collateral for bank loans” but this was not included in the joint resolution approved by the Senate and the House.

Joint Resolution 19 extended the land distribution component of CARP for six months or until June 30, 2009 but did not include compulsory land acquisition. For six months, only those lands that will be under voluntary offer to sell (VOS) and voluntary land transfer (VLT) will be subject to distribution.

The resolution will lapse into law on January 23 if Arroyo does not sign it, Nograles said. He added that the House transmitted the measure to the Office of the President on December 19, but that it was officially received between December 20 and 23.

Farmers groups from Task Force Mapalad slammed the resolution as a virtual death for CARP, saying it did not mean anything without the compulsory acquisition component. The group has threatened to raise the matter before the Supreme Court.

Nograles said that “technically, it does not really matter” whether or not the President signed the measure. He said lawmakers have vowed to pass new legislation within the six- month period so that the agrarian reform program would continue.

In a separate text message, Akbayan partylist Representative Risa Hontiveros said the President should instead restore the compulsory land acquisition component into the resolution.

She said advocates of agrarian reform would continue pushing for House Bill 4077, which proposes a P100-billion allocation for compulsory land acquisition and increases the budget for agriculture support services from 23 percent to 43 percent of the CARP annual budget.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, principal author of HB 4077, urged Arroyo to save CARP by vetoing the joint resolution.

Lagman said that “while the veto will result in the expiration of the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) component after Dec. 31, 2008, Congress in a special session or after the resumption of the regular sessions starting Jan. 19, 2009 can expeditiously act to revive the LAD with compulsory acquisition as the dominant mode for the mandatory coverage of the remaining landholdings consisting of 1.3 million hectares.”

“Allowing the LAD to lapse pending its authentic revival is better than a sham extension which is a virtual termination of the program,” Lagman had said.

Lagman said that the exclusion of the more important mode of compulsory acquisition would virtually kill CARP because:

• The remaining landholdings for coverage were those owned by landlords who have resisted or defied coverage for the past two decades and who obviously were not expected to belatedly volunteer to offer their lands for sale or transfer;
• Various independent and empirical studies have documented that the VOS and VLT have resulted to simulated and corrupted coverage under “artificial arrangements” with non-qualified beneficiaries;
• These studies have recommended the review and abandonment of VOS and VLT in favor of compulsory acquisition as the sole mode of coverage; and
• The VLT scheme has legally expired one year after the implementation of the CARP or 19 years ago pursuant to Section 20 (a) of Republic Act No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARP) and has been illicitly extended to deodorize the reported high performance of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on land coverage.

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